Now that Quarter 2 of 2023 has arrived, it’s once again time to revisit our Points Valuations, which we update on a quarterly basis.
During the previous quarter, there was plenty of movement in the loyalty landscape. In the latter part of 2022, many programs had signalled that changes were imminent, and in the first quarter of 2023, we saw those changes, and others, take place.
In a positive development, Air France/KLM Flying Blue added free stopovers of up to a year on award bookings. It’s rare to see programs add value rather than take it away, and it’s continuing its trend towards becoming a viable alternative to the other major players.
Before we delve into the valuations, I should remind you that the focus of these valuations lies in the target redemption value of each points currency, rather than the acquisition cost that you might incur (which can vary significantly depending on how you prefer to earn points).
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles continue to become more interesting and readily available in the North American context. Each month, the program unveils its Promo Rewards, which reduce the cost of redemptions on specific routes.
In April 2023, there is a 50% discount on flights in economy from Montreal to Europe. While it may not be the most comfortable way to get across the Atlantic, when it only costs 7,500 miles, it’s hard to find a better price.
Furthermore, Flying Blue has recently added free stopovers to award bookings, which is a very positive development. You can add a stopover of up to a year at no extra cost, which simply requires phoning the contact centre to book.
Air France will launch a direct route between Ottawa and Paris later on this year, which joins Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City as Canadian cities served by Air France or KLM.
With a widespread network in Canada and the United States, as well as intriguing possibilities with Promo Rewards, Air France/KLM Flying Blue continues to be on our radar as a great option for flights across the Atlantic (and beyond).
Our valuation of Flying Blue miles remains steady this quarter, but hopefully we’ll see even more improvements to the program that result in an upward shift in the near future.
- Continued valuation: 1.3 cents/mile (USD), 1.8 cents/mile (CAD)
Perhaps the most major development in the last quarter from a Canadian perspective was the dramatic turn of events for Air Miles.
In early March, the future of the program appeared to be very bleak when news broke of its parent company, Loyalty Ventures Inc., heading for bankruptcy.
Mere hours later, BMO announced its intention to purchase the beleaguered program from Loyalty Ventures, thus preserving collectors’ miles, at least for the time being.
Air Miles has largely moved away from relevancy in the recent past as it has lost numerous meaningful partners, such as Empire-affiliated grocery stores, and has largely been replaced by Scene+. Its most recent partnership is with Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Canada Jetlines, which doesn’t necessarily inspire a lot of confidence.
Furthermore, BMO doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to its own in-house loyalty program, BMO Rewards. Recall that back in 2020, shortly after introducing its flagship BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card and BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card, it devalued its own points from 0.71 cents per point to 0.67 cents per point.
We’re dropping our valuation of Air Miles this time around. While no material changes to the program have taken place, the outlook isn’t great for the future, and we’d suggest redeeming your Air Miles at their current value while you’re still able.
- Previous valuation: 11 cents/mile
- New valuation: 10.5 cents/mile (CAD) ▼
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
In late December 2022, the loyalty program released a “simplified” award chart, which replaced the previous multitude of separate charts. Many loyalty enthusiasts speculated that this left the door wide open for devaluations, and unfortunately, these fears became reality.
In mid-March, Alaska Mileage Plan increased award pricing for Japan Airlines First Class and some Japan Airlines business class redemptions by up to 43%. This came without any notice from the loyalty program, which is a marked shift in its previous policy of advising about changes at least 90 days prior to implementing them.
While we haven’t seen any further changes to the program’s other sweet spots, such as Cathay Pacific First Class, the writing is on the wall for further sudden devaluations. Be sure to lock in any redemptions for 2023 and early 2024 before any further changes possibly take place.
For the first time in a long time, and what is indeed a sad development, we’re lowering our valuation of Alaska miles.
- Previous valuation: 1.8 cents/mile (USD), 2.4 cents/mile (CAD)
- Lowered valuation: 1.6 cents/mile (USD), 2.1 cents/mile (CAD) ▼
In March 2023, amidst an unfortunate string of devaluations to a number of other loyalty programs, Marriott Bonvoy lifted the ceiling on the amount of points required for redemptions at high-end hotels.
For example, prior to this point, there was a “soft cap” of 120,000 points at some of the brand’s most popular hotels, such as the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli and The Ritz-Carlton Maldives Fari Islands.
The upper limit at these properties was lifted to 150,000 points per night, which is a fairly significant leap of 30,000 points. We’ve also seen nightly prices at other properties, such as many Ritz-Carlton Reserves, top 250,000 points per night.
Anecdotally, pricing at other properties has risen as well, although it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much since the program has been using dynamic pricing for a year now.
While in one sense, this isn’t technically a devaluation and rather just the latest iteration of dynamic pricing being implemented, it still means that value across the board has indeed decreased by some margin.
With this in mind, we’re lowering the valuation of Bonvoy points this quarter, albeit ever so slightly.
- Previous valuation: 0.7 cents/point (USD), 0.9 cents/point (CAD)
- New valuation: 0.6 cents/point (USD), 0.8 cents/point (CAD) ▼
World of Hyatt
For 2023, we saw a massive number of properties shift in category, with a total of 372 hotels moving up or down. 214 hotels went up, and 158 moved down.
As per usual, the properties that moved up are more sought after than the ones that moved down. In other words, some more aspirational properties now cost more points to book, while some lesser consequential properties now cost a bit less.
At the same time, World of Hyatt remains the last remaining major hotel brand to publish an award chart, and there is still spectacular value to be found within the program.
Our valuation of World of Hyatt points remains unchanged this quarter, but it’s worth noting the large number of hotels that changed categories for 2023.
- Continued valuation: 1.5 cents/point (USD), 2 cents/point (CAD)
Points Valuations, Quarter 2 2023
Here’s a summary of our Points Valuations for Quarter 2 of 2023. You can refer to the Points Valuations page for a full list with additional notes.
American Express (Canada)
American Express (US)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
National Bank À la carte Rewards
The first quarter of 2023 saw some fairly major developments in the loyalty landscape, and unfortunately, they were mostly negative.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue continues to offer great value with Promo Rewards and free stopovers of up to a year, and hopefully we’ll see more discounted business class promotions on North American routes in 2023.
Marriott Bonvoy raised the ceiling on award pricing at high-end hotels, and likely at other properties as well. This represents another step towards becoming fully dynamic with pricing, which likely just means that hotels will cost more going forward.
Lastly, World of Hyatt had an unprecedented number of hotels change categories for 2023. On the other hand, it still uses an award chart, and offers an excellent alternative to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.
Remember, treat these numbers as merely a suggestion for reasonable target redemption values when deciding whether to redeem points or pay cash for your next trip.
Ultimately, the value derived from every redemption will be subjective to the individual traveller, and our valuations are designed to illustrate an average benchmark across the community to help inform your decision as you consider your next points redemption.